2020 IN REVIEW
SOUTH SUDAN HUMANITARIAN FUND AT A GLANCE
Humanitarian situation in 2020
The humanitarian situation for people in South Sudan remains dire. By the end of the year, the number of people in need reached an all-time high of 8.3 million, compared to 7.2 million and 7.5 million at the same time in 2018 and 2019, respectively. The new caseload includes 8 million South Sudanese and 0.3 million refugees and asylum seekers.
The humanitarian context was characterized by conflict and sub-national violence, a recurrence of major floods and the impacts of COVID-19. A legacy of violence, political tensions and underdevelopment continues to push more people to vulnerability and, at the same time, undermine humanitarian efforts. While a peace agreement was signed two years ago, its implementation has been modest, and the lack of durable peace and limited investment in basic services continue to impede stability and sustainable development.
Recurrent floods exacerbated the humanitarian situation in 2020. Floods affected an estimated 856,000 people in the second half of the year, displacing close to 400,000 people. Some 400 schools in nine states were damaged, half of them were still occupied by internally displaced persons (IDPs) by year end. This is likely to delay the reopening of schools in many areas once the lock-down is lifted.
Flood-induced displacements limit people’s access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure and services, place an extra burden on existing WASH facilities in displacement sites and increase the risk of waterborne and hygiene-preventable diseases.
In addition, flooding cuts off the main supply routes, with up to 60 per cent of the country inaccessible by land between April and December. This further constrained physical access, limiting humanitarian access and forcing humanitarian organizations to rely on costly air transportation.
Effects of COVID-19
By 24 April 2021, there were 10,515 confirmed cases of COV-ID-19, with 114 total deaths– representing 1.09 per cent case fatality rate1. While the number of cases has been low compared to neighbouring countries, the impact of COV-ID-19 mitigation restrictions placed pressure on markets and the movement of goods, leading to high commodity prices and the unavailability of essential supplies. COVID-19 also led to additional demand for health services, supplies and professionals, disrupting some routine programmes, such as the Expanded Programme on Immunization, and affected access to education. The temporary closures of schools, due to COVID-19 restrictions, not only disrupted education but also limited children’s access to essential services, like school feeding programmes.
Other compounding factors, such as depreciation of the local currency, contributed to a significant spike in prices for cereals and other commodities. The depreciation of the South Sudanese pound in 2020 led to a rise in the cost of a food basket, and consequently, a rise in the share of food expenditure, leaving households little to no resources to cover non-food needs.
South Sudan remains one of the most food-insecure countries in the world due to number of factors, including, conflict and intercommunal violence, flooding and attendant popula-tion displacement, which have disrupted trade, markets and food production activities. Chronic food shortages, climate shocks, a deepening economic crisis, insecurity and insufficient agricultural production at household level have kept levels of acute malnutrition alarmingly high for people. The indirect effects of COVID-19 mitigation measures disrupted supply chains of both commercial and humanitarian assistance which worsened the severity of people’s food insecurity for most of 2020 by delaying delivery of assistance and increasing commodity prices.
People’s overall food security situation deteriorated towards the end of the year. The number of people facing crisis-level acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) or worse, increased to 6.5 million people in the period May-July, from 5.3 million people projected to be impacted as reported in January 2020. The number slightly reduced to 6.35 million people, or 52.6 per cent of the population in October-November 2020. By the end of the year, 2.1 million people were in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity, while 24,000 people were classified as being in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) acute food insecurity.
The food security situation was projected to improve by March 2021, with 5.82 million people facing crisis acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) or worse. However, the future remains worrying, with a projection of 7.2 million people facing crisis in the period April-July 2021.
High malnutrition levels
A high prevalence of diseases and poor quality and diversity of food elevated levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 and above), and poor access to health and nutrition services continued to drive up malnutrition rates. By the end of the year, some 1.4 million children under age 5 were estimated to suffer from acute malnutrition according to nutrition monitoring systems, SMART nutrition surveys and admission trends for 2020. This number represents the highest caseload of children with acute malnutrition reported since December 2013 and marks an increase from 1.3 million children reported at the beginning of the 2020.
In total, people in 48 of 78 counties are assessed to have a global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate above the emergency threshold of 15 per cent. Of those, 20 counties were classified as critical with a 15-29.9 per cent GAM rate, compared with 12 counties in the same period in 2019. People in 28 counties were classified as serious, with a 10-14.9 per cent rate. High malnutrition levels have persisted for people in Jonglei and Upper Nile states.
People’s access to health care is limited especially in hardto-reach areas. Prolonged conflict and limited investment in the health-care system continued to adversely affect health infrastructure and basic service delivery. Of approximately 2,300 health facilities, more than 1,300 are assessed to be non-functional, with some 57 per cent of the functioning sites supported by humanitarian and development actors.
Due to the limited access to health care, the country continues to register some of the worst health indicators in the world for its population, with a child mortality rate of 96 deaths per 1,000 live births. It is estimated that 75 per cent of all child deaths in South Sudan are as a result of preventable diseases, such as diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia.
An estimated 2.4 million school-age children were out of school in 2020. The situation is dire for children in rural areas, for displaced, refugee and returnee children where only half of them have access to primary education. According to the 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview, six states - Lakes, Western Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity, Lakes, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal – are the worst affected due to conflict and inadequate education infrastructure. Access to education has further worsened countrywide with the temporary closure of schools due to COVID-19. The closures disrupted access to education and limited children’s access to essential services such as school feeding programmes, information on disease prevention and access to water and sanitation available at the school sites.
An estimated 1.6 million people are internally displaced, a slight decrease from November 20196. The spike in sub-national violence and floods triggered new displacements in 2020. Preliminary analysis shows that more than 230,000 people displaced to a new location during the first nine months of 2020, including new displacement and movement of existing displaced people to secondary areas of displacement. As of March 2020, four of five displaced people were living with host communities, of whom more than 90 per cent are in rural areas and 10 per cent in camp-like settings. Protracted displacement and scarcity of resources lead to strained relationship between displaced families and host community.
By November 2020, Protection of Civilian (PoC) sites in Bor, Juba, Wau and Bentiu were transitioned to internally displaced people (IDP) sites, with Malakal PoC site planned to transition in 2021. The re-designation of the PoC sites posed several protection concerns related to security, access to justice and rule of law. This is due to limited trust between the government and local populations, based on historical, ethnic and political reasons.